A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


A companion volume developed to accompany the exhibition of the same title, In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry, by Sarah Nehama with a foreword by Anne E. Bentley, features 110 full-color illustrations of exemplary pieces of mourning jewelry. The essays and captions provide valuable historical context for the changing styles of mourning ornamentation and the social customs around grieving.

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Americans, like their English counterparts, wore rings, brooches, pendants, and other jewels in memory of  family and friends. Over the centuries a striking range of design, styles and craftsmanship was employed, from the simple gold bands of the 17th century to the intricate and opulent earring and brooch sets of the late Victorian era. The way memorial jewelry was worn also shifted over the years and these changes tell the story of a culture’s changing sensibility around death and grief. Commemorating the death of a loved one was manifest in a variety of media including broadsides, paintings, portraits, and textiles. This website shows representative examples of the ways in which our ancestors mourned.

Exhibition: September 2012 to January 2013

In Death Lamented features rings, bracelets, brooches, and other pieces of mourning jewelry from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Ranging from early gold bands with death’s head iconography to jeweled brooches and intricately woven hairwork pieces of the Civil War era, these elegant and evocative objects are presented in the context of their history, use, and meaning, alongside related pieces of material culture.

The exhibit runs from 28 September 2012 through 31 January 2013, Monday through Saturday, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM.

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